Cyril Lemon, one of the anchors of North Texas’ offensive line, was named to the Outland Trophy watch list Thursday, the latest honor for a player who has been a model of consistency throughout his career.
Lemon arrived at UNT in 2011 and was in the starting lineup at right guard in the Mean Green’s season opener at Florida International. He’s been a starter ever since and enters his senior season as the only player in the nation who has started every game of his college career while earning all-conference honors in each of the last three seasons.
Lemon was included on the watch list of 64 players for the Outland, which is presented to the top interior lineman in college football each season.
Lemon has started 37 games at UNT and was a first-team All-Conference USA pick as a junior. He received All-Sun Belt Conference honorable mention as a freshman and sophomore.
The honor of being named to the Outland watch list comes at a time when Lemon is facing what could be a challenging season that might include a season-long position change for the first time in his career. Lemon has been a fixture at guard but heads into the season listed as UNT’s starter at right tackle after spending spring practice at the position.
“It is helping keep me on my toes,” Lemon said this spring of the switch. “Playing one position your whole career can make you stagnant. When you move to somewhere else, it helps you athletically. It will help me in the future. It could help prepare me for the NFL. It shows my versatility. I will have the techniques tackles use when I move back inside to guard.”
Lemon played two games at tackle last season in a three-player switch that helped UNT adjust when left tackle Antonio Johnson missed two games with an injury. Lemon could end up at tackle again to help fill the void left by the graduation of LaChris Anyiam, who played right tackle.
UNT heads into the fall with Lemon slated to play right tackle and Shawn McKinney in line to start at right guard when the Mean Green opens the season at Texas on Aug. 30.
“His best position is guard, but Cyril Lemon has the aptitude, talent and learning capacity to play center, tackle or guard,” UNT coach Dan McCarney said in the spring. “We can win with him anywhere he lines up.”
McCarney said there is a chance Lemon could be back at guard this season, depending on the development and health of the other players.
What isn’t in doubt is that Lemon will be among UNT’s top players and will help anchor what arguably has been the Mean Green’s best position group over the last two seasons.
UNT led the nation in fewest sacks allowed in 2012 with six and tied with Fresno State for seventh last season, when the Mean Green surrendered 11 sacks. UNT’s total of 17 sacks allowed the last two seasons combined is the lowest in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Lemon is the first UNT player named to the Outland watch list since guard Dylan Lineberry in 2005. He is one of two Conference USA players named to the Outland watch list, joining Rice defensive lineman Christian Covington.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.